Insomnia remains a largely undiagnosed and under-treated issue in the UAE and wider region, with many doctors believing that the problem is on the rise, especially amongst children.
People who struggle with sleep often fall into two categories: those who can’t get to sleep; and those who wake in the middle of the night or in the early hours. Sleep can be affected by myriad of factors like stress, anxiety, depression or chronic pain, to name a few, and often when we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, we don’t feel on top of our game mentally or physically.
There’s no simple answer to how much sleep we need as every individual is different, and healthy sleep patterns can range from four to ten hours per night.
Doshas and sleep
According to Ayurveda, doshas are the energy patterns that flow around our bodies, governing our thinking and behaviour. There are three primary doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – and we are born with all three of them. But it’s the dominance of one or two of these doshas that defines who we are. To enjoy a balanced mind, body and spirit, so the thinking goes, our unique dosha constitution needs to be in a state of equilibrium, when it isn’t, we fall ill.
Ayurveda offers deep insights into the nature of sleep by looking at doshas, and believes that if sleep happens at the right time, you’ll be cheerful, strong, disease-free and might even live to be a centenarian!
Here are some tips and recommendations from Pukka’s Master Herbalist Jo Weber which will guide you to start the new year with a better sleep routine …
If you’re a Vata…
You may generally be more alert and wakeful. When aggravated, you’re likely to wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep between two and six am. Vata types are generally light sleepers, needing black out blinds and earplugs and preferring a soft, cosy bed. You may find teeth grinding, sleepwalking and sleep talking are commonplace.
Here are some useful tips for Vatas:
- Getting a regular routine is really important and ensuring you wind down early evening with warm bath or gentle yoga stretches
- Sleeping by 9.30pm if you can, latest by 10pm
- Getting plenty of rest, or catnaps, at any time of the day
- Trying to cut out caffeine to see if your sleep improves; Vata types may not be able to tolerate a coffee even after breakfast
- Drinking teas containing herbs such as liquorice, fennel, cardamom or tulsi throughout the day and especially in the evening, to allow the mind to calm a lot quicker come bedtime.
If you’re a Pitta…
Difficulty falling asleep is the classic pitta-type sleep disorder as high pitta can be mentally stimulating, overwhelming any desire to sleep. Pitta types may become night owls, and you may be more restless in the night, with the tendency to overheat, therefore preferring fewer or thinner covers.
Here are some useful tips for Pittas
- Aiming to limit distractions in the evening, such as screens, in order to sleep around 10pm.
- Keeping your bedroom cool with plenty of ventilation is also helpful
- Using less spice in your evening meal as well as limiting coffee will also help
- Drinking teas containing chamomile, rose, mint or licorice to cool and soothe throughout the day
If you’re a Kapha…
Kapha types are heavy sleepers, rarely disturbed or awakened. However, they are the most likely to have a sleep condition called Sleep Apnoea (breathing difficulties) and are more likely to need to urinate in the night. They love soft beds with lots of warm covers. Kapha types don’t often need as much sleep as they have, which can lead to difficulties waking up. Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalise this dosha.
Here are some useful tips for Kaphas
- Aiming for more stimulation, exercise and activity in the day to balance this dosha
- Avoiding napping in the day and lie-ins
- Avoiding heavy, sweet foods in the evening such as wheat, cheese and yoghurt.
- Trying a light dinner instead such as a bowl of soup and aiming to finish dinner at least three hours prior to bedtime
- Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalise this dosha
Good sleep hygiene for all
Sleep hygiene works on the idea that many (but not all) sleep problems are due to bad habits. Here are three very simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene. We know you’ve heard these before, but have you mindfully tried each one, or just thought about them? How did you get on?
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day – it’s so simple but we rarely do it
- Using your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only – absolutely no screen time
- Trying some breathing techniques as you lie in bed, like inhaling for a count of three or four and exhaling to a count of six or eight. This helps relax the nervous system